Alcohol can increase the risk of developing cancer by causing permanent genetic damage to stem cells in the body, new research has found.
The study, conducted on genetically modified mice, adds to the growing evidence of a strong link between drinking and cancer.
Previous studies, including a meta-analysis published in 2016 combining years of scientific research, have linked alcohol to seven types of cancer including the mouth and throat, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colon, bowel and breast.
Professor Linda Bauld, of Cancer Research UK – which part-funded the latest study by the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge – said: “We know that alcohol contributes to over 12,000 cancer cases in the UK each year, so it’s a good idea to think about cutting down on the amount you drink.”
Scientists at the MRC lab identified a chemical compound called acetaldehyde – which is produced as the body digests alcohol – as the cause of genetic damage.
Their findings backs previous research from the University of Minnesota in 2012 linking acetaldehyde to irreversibly altering DNA in the cells.
The body already has a defence mechanism to protect against the harmful effects of alcohol – a group of enzymes called acetaldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDH) produced in the liver which can neutralise acetaldehyde.
But when alcohol is consumed faster than the body’s ability to process it, acetaldehyde can build up in the cells.
Source: The Irish Examiner, 04/01/18